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by Lela Scott MacNeil
July 20th, 2010

Come see Incident by a Bank and other intriguing short films from Sweden at our free “Swedish Cinema” short film program TONIGHT at Socrates Sculpture Park.

Today, July 21st, is the opening night of Swedish Cinema Week at Rooftop. This year, in partnership with the Swedish Film Institute, we are showing a variety of fascinating  new films from Sweden, including tomorrow’s program of shorts and two New York premiers of  feature films this weekend, The Ape and Greetings from the Woods.

One of tomorrow’s most gripping short films, Incident by a Bank, is a naturalistic portrayal of an attempted bank robbery. It unfolds in what appears to be one long shot, occurring in real time, and focusing in on the details. In a Hollywood-dominated industry of glamorized violence, this slow paced, honest take is refreshing.

Ruben Ostlund, the film’s director, talks with us about his own experience witnessing a robbery gone awry and the bizarre ways that life sometimes imitates art.

Rooftop Films: Tell us about your film, for someone who hasn’t seen it.

Ruben Ostlund: It’s a humorous and terrifying reconstruction of a failed robbery attempt.

RF: You witnessed the actual attempted robbery on June 26, 2006.  What was that experience like?  Was it difficult to recreate the robbery exactly as it happened back then?

RO: Actually I don’t think I wanted to recreate it exactly as it happened. I wanted to highlight specific details that I thought were interesting. Before that day in June 2006 I had never experienced an robbery in real life. Still I thought I knew what it would look like. I was very wrong.

RF: Do you think our exposure to bank robberies in Hollywood movies will influence an audience’s reactions to your film?

RO: Yes. I think that moving images are very strong in making references that changes the way we think and the way we behave. A very clear example of this was told by Roberto Saviano, the author of the book Gomorrah,  in a newspaper interview. A half year after Pulp Fiction had its release world wide the young gangsters in the Camorra in Napoli started to shoot with their guns pointed sideways. The so called “Gangsta style” grip is a very inefficient way to shoot so the shootouts were a lot more bloody and the police had a mess cleaning up. Even though we create fiction images that are totally stupid, human beings will start to imitate them in real life.

RF: This film seems to be shot in a single take.  Why did you choose this  method?  How do you feel it adds to the end product of the film?

RO: It actually is a combination of four different takes put together in the editing to look like a single shot. The reason that I wanted to create the feeling of a realtime clip is that the small details get as much attention as the most dramatic details. In the Anglo-Saxon dramaturgy we are very used to cutting away all things between the dramatic situations. I wanted to focus on the details in between.

RF: What does your film have to say about human interaction?

RO: An aspect is that all people are playing the main character in their own life. Me and a friend were on our way to a meeting when we suddenly witnessed the robbery. The robber who ends up with his face pushed down on the street by a security guard probably had his most dramatic and horrifying moment in his life. At the same time, we were annoyed by the fact that the mobile phone we had couldn’t zoom. The robbers only looked like small dots even though we were filming from the other side of the street.

RF: Are you a full-time filmmaker? If not, what else are you up to?

RO: Yes. I am just about to edit my third feature film Play.

Incident by a Bank kicks off a week of Swedish Cinema at Rooftop Films. See it for free TONIGHT along with other wild short films from Sweden.

Then on Friday, head to Ft. Greene for the New York Premiere of The Ape, directed by Jesper Ganslandt. A man awakens on the floor, covered in blood and apparently unaware of how he got there. He goes off to work, and we follow…

On Saturday, we present the New York Premiere of Greetings from the Woods, at the Old American Can Factory. With a mixture of playful precision, humor, and melancholy, director Mikel Cee Karlsson captures the dreams, relationships and everyday life of the denizens of his hometown, a tiny little village deep within the Swedish forest.

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One Response to “Filmmaker Interview: Incident by a Bank”

  1. [...] Swedish Cinema Week during last year’s Summer Series. You can read our interview with Ruben here. A still from "Incident by a [...]

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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